Saturday, April 25, 2015

Don't GO! Don't STOP! LOOK BEHIND!

South Daytona, Florida
29 05.50 N 080 56.97 W

We spent last night at the public floating dock in New Smyrna Beach.  Libby likes that spot because it is close to the farmer's market.   Last night we had special entertainment.   Several hundred senior prom couples came to the waterfront to take pictures.  Lots of very beautiful women and very handsome men.

Immediately upon departing this morning, we had to go under the George Manson drawbridge.  That reminded me of a bloggable topic.

Nearly all captains have the instinct to never stop directly under an open drawbridge.  That bridge is like the sword of Damocles. It could close at any second.  Typically, boats accelerate and bunch up as they go under a bridge to minimize the opening time.

Once in Saint Augustine, we were heading north.  The sailboat in front of us wanted to anchor on the north side of the bridge, but he couldn't see the anchorage from the south side of the bridge.  What did he do?  He stopped dead directly under the bridge to look around.  I was behind him going fast.  There was not enough room to go around him.  All I could do was emergency stop.  No time to even reach for the horn or yell.   DON'T STOP UNDER A BRIDGE EVER.

When should you shout DON'T GO?  When backing out of a slip or coming out from a blind side passage into the path of passing traffic.

A third safety tip is the one I believe is most often violated.  LOOK BEHIND YOU.   That man going under the bridge did not think to look behind before stopping.   Big sport fishing boats that leave huge wakes, do not look behind them to see the havoc that their wakes cause.   Of course you are supposed to look where you are going, but there is a secondary responsibility to look behind also.  In cars or trucks, we have mirrors that allow us to glance behind in just a fraction of a second.  On boats, rear view mirrors are not common.  You must turn your head and body to look back.   Regardless of difficulty, DO IT!

Libby and I must stand up 100% of the time when under way (and not out at sea).  We stand to see over the dinghy.  That makes it easier for us to spin 360 degrees to look all around.  We do so every time we are about to change course or speed, plus once per minute  otherwise.  

Drawbridges require maximum alertness and situational awareness.  There are often squarely currents that move you from side to side.  Traffic might appear unexpectedly from the left or right before or after the bridge.   Other boats may do unexpected things, and the bridge tender may decide to close the bridge. If you approach the opening from any direction other than 90 degrees, your vulnerability to currents and surprises is increased. When passing under a drawbridge with traffic in front and behind us, I spin 360 degrees nonstop, alert and ready to take evasive action.  Because I am nervous, I usually do it at high speed to get through as quickly as possible.





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